Working with the UN in Hanoi in 2007, Rowan McClean met Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy of Vietrade, whose family came from the Minh Hac community. Minh Hac is about 130 kilometers north west of Hanoi on the Red River and has about 3,500 residents.

It is a really needy community with very few resources, subsistence agriculture and poor public health.  This area is, in fact, one of the poorest groups of communities in Vietnam, and there are children in particularly needy circumstances without parents to properly care for them.

Together with a range of leaders from the community, OKF Vietnam is committed to improve the lives of the people of Minh Hac.  

In September 2009, Rowan McClean and Trudi Kalogerakis, a sponsor, were the first foreigners ever to visit Minh Hac.  Since then, Rowan has returned with Rotary colleagues and other sponsors on a yearly basis and now, with NGO status for OKF, will consider opportunities to help other poor communities.

Most of the children, living just three hours from Hanoi, are not at all familiar with the old Capital. 

Stage 1 of the Minh Hac project was to provide life support for more than three dozen of the poorest children, as identified by community leaders, that would provide financial relief to enable them to attend school (often they were bread winners for themselves and dependant family members at ages as young as seven!). Since inception, over 100 children have been assisted and several are now University graduates.  

Stage 2 of the project focussed on infrastructure improvements.  

The first major project was the completion of a Community Resource Centre and the community's first library, funded by  North Balwyn Rotary and its Interact Club at Balwyn High School.  We have since provided furniture and equipment to the Primary and Secondary schools, supplied refrigeration and outdoor play equipment to the kindergarten for the first time, and proved capital items to the Health Clinic and People's Committee. The success of this Community Centre has inspired five other districts in Minh Hac, consisting of about 800 people each, to build their own centres for community meetings and gatherings.

Stage 3 has been community development. In 2012 a pig-raising project was commenced as the first initiative to help break the subsistence cycle.  Six farmers have had considerable success and a great deal has been learned to help improve practices in future. months. The new agricultural venture is a significant opportunity to alleviate poverty and encourage new activities.

On the left of the Community Centre building is a new kitchen and toilets, funded by North Balwyn Rotary, and due for completion before Christmas.  The yard has been paved and this enables multiple activities such as sport (soccer and badminton), festivals and large group meetings and, as shown here, rice drying. 

The pig project has seen some amazing growth in numbers, with entrepreneurial activity expanding into other livestock such as chickens and rabbits, the use of fertiliser for crops and the capture of bio-gas.

A great achievement has been the supply of a new ultrasound machine to the Minh Hac clinic, the first they have had.  Previously,  birth complications could often only be discovered at the time of delivery, which was sometimes too late to take appropriate action.  The doctor and staff, provided initial training by Ultrasound expert Dr. Max Hardy from Melbourne, are now undertaking further training at the District Hospital  and in 2019 will be able to anticipate likely birth difficulties and send women to hospital when necessary.  

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